Duncan faces former team and pitching coach father

Friday, March 12, 2010

JUPITER, Fla. -- In years past, when Chris Duncan wanted a pregame word with his father, he simply walked into the office adjacent to the clubhouse.

On Wednesday, they had to chat outside the batting cage when the Nationals came to play the Cardinals. Chris is in Washington's camp as a nonroster invitee.

"It was good to see him," the Cardinals' longtime pitching coach said. "I haven't seen him since before spring training started. I was rooting for him."

Chris spent parts of five years with St. Louis, hitting .293 with 22 home runs in 90 games during the Cardinals' World Series title run in 2006.

Injuries limited Duncan's effectiveness over the last three seasons.

"It was kind of tough at the end," Chris Duncan said. "I remember the last game I started at home I was getting booed. The bottom line was that I was not playing well and we were competing for a pennant."

St. Louis traded Duncan to Boston last July, but the Red Sox released him after he hit less than .200 in 92 minor-league at-bats.

Washington manager Jim Riggleman expects Duncan to compete for a reserve spot on the opening day roster. Riggleman has liked what he's seen so far from Duncan, who went 0 for 5 with an RBI on Wednesday, including two strikeouts in the late innings with runners in scoring position.

"In your idle time as a manager when you are scribbling out lineups and rosters on napkins, there are some scenarios where he is there and there are some where he is not," Riggleman said before Wednesday's game. "He's competing and he's going to make it a tough decision for us."

Former Manager Tony La Russa expects Duncan to help the Nationals.

"I think what's going to benefit Chris is health," La Russa said. "He's been beat up, and a healthy Chris Duncan is an impact type of a productive player."

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